I know it's a weird topic...I'm weird. A husband of a friend of mine, Janet, recently lost his grandfather. For some reason, it got me thinking about all the deaths that I have experienced in my life. Some of them i can recall vividly, others not so much.
1.The first one I can remember was my grandfather, Houston McBroom. I don't have a ton of memories of him, but I remember him letting me take a sip of his coffee in the morning (maybe that is why I love the smell and taste of coffee). He used to sing to us on the porch and I remember him being very tall and skinny. I remember visiting the hospital not long before he passed. My mom said he could get a little rough and didn't always realize what he was doing, so we didn't go visit him very often. He died just before Christmas in 1982. I don't remember his funeral.
2. The second one was when I was in 5th grade. I was just getting know a kid who I thought was really nice and fun to hang out with. I came to school one day and was told that he had committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in his front yard. His name was Bart. That was a really odd experience for me. I didn't realize that a 10 year old would think of something like that. I know he came from a rough home and that is mother had passed just a few years before. I still think about him and I can still remember what he looked like.
3. The 3rd one was another kid I went to High School with. I hung out with him a few times. We used to watch Dazed and Confused at his house. He was out riding his motorcycle and hit a tree head on and broke his neck. He was a member of the church, but i never saw him there. The only time I ever saw his family there was at the funeral.
4. It was my first year as a Youth Counselor at Girls Camp. I was over the 4th year girls and we were on their hike. I was watching over a girl, Jennifer Jones, as she took a swim in a small lake we were camped by. The water was too cold and she slowly became lethargic and took off swimming across the lake. She didn't know how to swim that well and about halfway across she couldn't swim anymore. Her body started to shut down and she couldn't keep her head above water. We did CPR on her for a long time, but she didn't make it. I was right there the whole time, from the time she went into the water till the time the ambulance finally arrived. This experience put a huge weight on my shoulders. I blamed myself for the drowning for quite sometime. I actually wrote a paper on this event in college.
5. My Grandpa Brownie. I didn't know my dad's parents all that well. I didn't grow up living close to them. I remember that he died at home and I think that we came by the house about the same time as the funeral home came to take him. The day of his funeral the weather was horrible and there was a huge storm the night before. It knocked down trees and powerlines all over the place. At the funeral all of the grandchildren that were there sang "Families Can Be Together Forever".
6. My friend, Karen's baby, Sierra, passed away at 8 weeks old. Her 5th birthday would be this Sunday, June 8th. The hardest part about this death was that Brinley was only a few months older than her. There were so many of our friends that had babies that year (literally, something like 15) that I think at any one point, one of us felt awkward around Karen, something I have now witnessed from Karen's point of view. I never imagined that I would know what it was like to lose a child.
7. My Grandma Esther. She lived with or near us almost my entire life. She went in for some back surgery, which went perfectly, then she had one stroke after another. She was in a coma-like state for about a day. I was there with my Mom and sisters as she took her last breath early in the morning on a December day. Her funeral was in California and that trip was a whole other experience in itself.
8. My sweet little Olivia. You never think that it will be you that loses a child. (You can start at the very beginning of my blog if you want to read all about my experience with that.) It was definitely the hardest and most painful of all the deaths, but it has also had some great blessings that have come with it that I would never have known without going through what she taught me.
9. I am going to combine all of those babies that I have taken pictures of. Being on the other end of the process of giving birth and then watching your child die in your arms, gives me a new perspective on seeing these parents go through a similar thing. I also get to see it from the nurses view.
Life works in a funny way, all the experiences leading up to my daughters death I believe were preparing me for dealing with a loss so close to me. Experiencing my loss of Olivia has given me a purpose. I have said before that I have loved photography and I have always wanted to work with babies. I never thought I would ever combine the two into what I am doing now. I love taking pictures for these families. I know what it means to them to have pictures to remember their children by. It gives me a chance to remember Olivia everytime I walk into the Maternity Ward and go by the room she was born in.